Ten of Cups

by llamajoy

Ten of Cups: Home. Joy. Pleasure. Peace. Love. Contentment. Good family. Honor. Esteem. Virtue. [inv] Loss of friendship. Unhappiness. Family quarrel. Pettiness. Rage. Difference of opinion.


"I'm here," said the emperor-child, though the control room sparked fire and the glossair wings shuddered, and they should have been anywhere /but/ here. It was Penelo who got the newly-fledged emperor of Archadia to his feet, and though his face was pinched and pale, his stance was steady.

Not so Judge Gabranth.

Sheer stubbornness lifted him to his knees, but the force of his will could not compel the mending of flesh, the surcease of bleeding. He watched his own fingers tremble as he tried to take Larsa's hand.

"It's not far to the Strahl," Vaan said. "We can make it."

Balthier looked dubious. Basch looked away, seeing for an instant another face, another foe, another friend on his knees.

Ashe mouthed the words to the strongest curative spell she had the spirit for, admittedly not much. He was beyond healing; they all knew. But the wash of green magic dulled the hurt for a moment, a generous gift from an enemy's hands. They shared a glance. She was Dalmasca's queen in truth; and he her father's murderer.

Now, the war was over; his war was lost. It mattered little.

Gabranth shook his head as Larsa moved closer, and would have touched him. Your gloves, he tried to say. Do not sully them for me. His voice was yet his own, but barely. "You should leave me."

Larsa wrestled with words, and Ashe looked away. Basch said nothing. It was Fran who told him, "This place is a graveyard for a god-- not a place for mortal men to die." Her tone was sharp, but not unkind. "Pray do not argue."

Gabranth obeyed.

Head bowed, he did not cry out when Basch lifted him, his wounds too deep for simple pain. The sky fortress was faltering; moments of weightlessness unbalanced them all. Basch's knees buckled but his legs did not give way. His brother's weight was more than armor, more than bone: his was the heaviness that comes at the end of fighting, the gravity of defeat.

All of Basch's strength was scarce enough to keep them both upright. "I need--" he began to say, but Fran was already flanking them. She was tallest of them all; she lent her shoulder silently.

He tried to thank her, but her ears twitched sidelong: an emphatic viera negative. "If it were Mjrn," she said, unexpected. Never before had he heard the note of sorrow, so human, in her voice. "If it were Jote. I would carry her on my back, if need be. Into the Woods, and home."

"Home." Gabranth, hearing, echoed her, coughing the word like an epithet.

"Home." This from Larsa, who matched his steps to run close by. There was nothing but earnestness in his voice, none of the polish or veneer of another Archadian politician. The boy held Gabranth's helmet in both his hands, cradling the horns against his chest. His white gloves were smudged dark with metal-polish, and worse.

The man who had called himself Gabranth closed his eyes against a rising tide of understanding, more painful by far than steel in his gut. Not in Landis would he die, at his mother's grave. Nor in Archadia, sword in hand and magister's helm on his brow. The war was over; more than lost: there was no longer a war. Peace would come. It mattered little.

Their embrace was ungentle, as they dashed through the hollowed crumbling shell of Bahamut, the viera's footfalls jarring as his brother's beating heart. The others shouted: the Strahl was in sight. They would make it. Beyond the strained mechanisms and pulsing heat of the sky fortress, the sky was bright, and blue.

It was oddly peaceful.

Noah fon Ronsenburg lay his head on his brother's shoulder, and Basch wiped blood from his face, touched his hair. Against his temple, while Noah could still hear him, he whispered, "Home."


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